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When the Fat Lady Sings

I have before me ads clipped from our own L.A. Times relative to the sexual vacancy of physical perfection.

The ads purport to show the ideal woman who can emerge as a result of either joining health clubs or undergoing the kind of cosmetic surgery that can mold and trim in all the right places.

The model in every ad is twisted into a pose meant to project her erogenous zones, thus heralding the erotic benefits of being slim enough to strip to a string bikini without emptying the beach.

This remains the image of Eve today despite feminist efforts to downplay the role of women as sexual catnip. There are some things that even a Gloria Allred SWAT Team can’t change.

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However, for those truly weary of the Heather Locklear Look, help is on the way.

The Fat Lady is in town.

I describe Pamela Springer that way not out of derision but out of admiration for someone who is on the streets telling the world that large ladies need love too.

She weighs more than 200 pounds and burns with an energy that fills a room, the way charisma glows with a fire of its own.

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“I’ll never be Christie Brinkley and I’m sure no Brooke Shields, but I love myself for what I am,” she says with a gesture as large as her presence.

I heard of Pamela through a community college lecture series that simultaneously hustled her image-making business for “women of substance” and challenged the Hollywoodian notion that there is no life beyond size 9.

She calls herself a consultant for full-figured women in terms of style and fashion but what she’s really selling is fat pride.

This is an alien concept to me, like short pride or bald pride, and at first blush smacked of human potentialism and self-wonderfulness, two areas of activity best left to macrobiotic vegetarians and lawyers’ wives.

But, still, the Fat Lady as bitter-sweet icon evokes compelling imagery, and I telephoned Pamela just for the hell of it. I was instantly captivated by the laugh that boomed through the receiver, full of a grandness of life that only memories of pain can fashion.

Instinct said there was humanity behind the hustle, so I visited Pamela in her Hancock Park home.

She’s a black woman of 47 with flash. “I’m big,” she says. “My laugh is big. My personality is big. My voice is big. That’s me.

At other times she describes herself as “an extremely-attractive, pecan tan, voluptuous woman.”

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Pamela wasn’t all that positive when she came to L.A. from Boston a dozen years ago. She weighed 300 pounds and felt like a freak.

“This town,” she says, “was ob- sessed with thinness. I began to attract men OK, but they weren’t the better ones.”

Freaks seek the company of other freaks and in a quest for companionship, Pamela married a man who, like Joe Isuzu, lied his way into her life. When you think you’re ugly, she says, you take what you can get.

She discovered only after they were wed that he was house-sitting the home he said he owned and wasn’t the chemist he claimed to be. In fact, he was unemployed. The marriage lasted eight months.

“It turned out I was his fifth wife and he married only for money,” she said. “When I asked why, since I had no money, he married me, he said, ‘I saw potential.’ I thanked the damned fool for that anyhow.”

From the failed union came a period of self-analysis. Why had she turned on to a guy like Joe Isuzu? The answer, she decided, was fat insecurity. Her response was to lose a hundred pounds.

“I loved the weight loss for about one minute,” she said. “Men flocked to me, but I felt like raw meat. They were going for my body, not me. With weight, I was asking them to see beauty on the inside.”

What emerged thereafter is what Pamela Springer is today.

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“My image,” she says, “is what I think of myself. When I walk into a room, I walk in as an intelligent human being, not as fat or black or female. The outside world can’t tell me how to be size 8 anymore than it can tell me how to be white. I am what I am.”

Pamela is taking that message around town these days to seminars, fashion shows and department stores, and while there are hints of hucksterism in peddling images, hers is a message long overdue in L.A.

We waste too much in a society that worships newness and to discard the human spirit because of its body size is the greatest waste of all.

If the show isn’t over until the fat lady sings, listen up. She’s singing now, and it’s a song worth hearing.


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